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Guitars ‘R Us: Behind the scenes at Seven C Music

Bill DeYoung

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David, left and Joel Hosler on the Seven C stage. Joel Hosler is a guitarist whose band Noise Ratchet worked in the studio with producers Nick Raskulinecz and Rick Rubin. Photos by Bill DeYoung.

David Hosler, hard at work. The master luthier returned to Florida a decade ago after working with Taylor Guitars for 20 years. “Bob Taylor gave me the privilege of making things that deserved to live in the world unquestioned,” he says.

Guitar players around the world know the T5, the Taylor company’s pioneering hollowbody acoustic/electric instrument. Beautifully crafted from a spectrum of soft and hard woods, the T5 is one of Taylor’s top sellers because it offers a “broad sonic palette for players to explore,” according to the breathless marketing mechanics of the company website.

Guitar players around the world have St. Petersburg’s David Hosler to thank.

During his 20 years at Taylor’s Southern California headquarters, Hosler designed pretty much all the pickup electronics for all the instrument lines. He also created a handful of well-loved instruments, including the T5.

He keeps a T5 prototype inside a windowbox frame at Seven C Music, the guitar repair and retail store he operates with his son Joel, also a veteran guitar tech, in the Warehouse Arts District.

During today’s Second Saturday ArtWalk, from 5 to 9 p.m.,  Seven C’s doors will be open for live music on its well-apportioned stage, with a food truck out back and the in-house bar dispensing coffee, beer and wine for whoever comes calling.

The French-style bar (coffee, beer and wine) at Seven C. “I just always wanted a little more of a lifestyle place,” Hosler says. The T5 windowbox is visible at far right.

Hosler, 67, opened the shop – and the bar, and the stage – in the fall of 2020. “I don’t expect this to somehow make me rich,” he says. “I retired five, six years ago. What I want here is for the guys that work here to make a living, to have fun, and to be at a place where we can add stuff to this community that’s important.”

His ideals, his explains, haven’t changed a whole lot since his growing-up days in Sarasota. Hosler’s father built hydroplanes – those sleek, lightweight wooden boats that fly across the water when motorized – and because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Dad’s guitar-playing son decided to try and build his own instrument.

“When I started building, there weren’t any tools,” Hosler explains. “You had to make your tools. Any wood you had, you had to find. There were no books. There was nothing.

“It was a different time. Back then, we had all the Foxfire books, which would teach you how to skin a bear and how to make a banjo out of an oak tree and all that sort of stuff. Back then it was our ambition to do stuff like that. To be self-sustaining, hug-a-tree hippies, without all the baggage that you hear about these days.”

By the mid 1980s he had moved his own family to Greenville, South Carolina, where he hung out his shingle as a luthier (creator of custom stringed instruments) and guitar repairman.

That’s where Taylor found him, and made an offer he couldn’t refuse. David Hosler and family relocated to Southern California; he was hired as a repairman, then ran Final Assembly, then was promoted to Product Development. “I was just fortunate to get to a company that needed somebody like me that had ideas,” he says.

Two decades turned out to be enough for him, and he declined Taylor’s offer to stay on a while longer and returned to Florida “to go fishing.”

Hosler’s reputation, however, caught up with him, and before long guitar players were knocking on his front door, looking for fretwork, setups, body repair, pretty much everything he’d left behind. “Before I knew it, I wasn’t fishing any more.”

Joel Hosler, who was by then head repairman at Taylor, joined his old man in St. Pete, and they opened the first 7C location, on Haines Road, in 2017.

David, Joel and the seven-member repair staff work out of an enormous back room, adjacent to the retail store (mostly high-end guitars), the stage/listening area and bar. It’s spacious and bright.

What’s missing is the shingle announcing Hosler’s services as a luthier.

“To be honest, there’s not a lot of money in building, unless you’re doing large amounts of stuff,” he explains. “It’s too hard. You can build, but everything you sell you’ve got to sell for two, three, four thousand dollars to make a living. You cannot make an equitable wage as a builder.”

By comparison the $130 million Taylor company, with plants in southern California and northern Mexico, turns out 600 guitars every day, from low end to high end. Manufacturing, Hosler says, is the way to succeed – if that sort of success is one’s goal.

“It can’t be just about the money,” he believes. “It has to be about offering a level of service that people are not used to.” Again, that reputation thing: Along with players from the bay area and beyond who seek out  Seven C’s 22nd Street South location, people from every state are shipping their instruments to the place for that Hosler Good Housekeeping seal of repair and approval.

“Guitar repair for many years was some guy in a back room who didn’t want to be a roofer,” Hosler pronounces. “Your guitar might be there for six months. You have to create enough commerce to legitimize what you do, and to pay the bills. Most repair guys don’t know how to do that. We turn guitars around in two weeks.

“My son and I are used to production repair. We know how to get in, get it done, trade it for money and move on. That’s what you gotta do.”

Dave Matthews is playing the Taylor T5 – which hadn’t yet been released to the public – in this video:

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    j c russell

    July 10, 2021at3:22 pm

    These guys are the real deal. Repaired my 50 year old hand made 12 string and then ultimately sold it for me. 100% legit.

  2. Avatar

    Gina Marie

    July 10, 2021at6:11 pm

    This is fabulous!!!! And fun! Hi neighbor! Please Open up on Friday and sat eves! Especially 2nd Saturday! (The business VM said it closes at 3pm on Saturday! 🙁
    Gina’s Warehouse

  3. Avatar

    Bill James

    July 11, 2021at8:17 am

    This just scratches the surface of what Seven C does, the professionalism that comes from this establishment is mind blowing,we musicians are blessed to have them here.

  4. Avatar

    Chris Marois

    July 29, 2021at11:49 pm

    David and Joel are great! I’m so happy we have such quality luthiers in our community. I’ve already trusted them with a few of my wooden children and they do excellent work!

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